Who’s got the sweetest disposition?
One guess – guess who?
Who never never starts an argument
Who never shows a bit of temperament?
Who’s never wrong but always right?
Who’d never dream of starting a fight?
Who gets stuck with all the bad luck?
No one but Donald Duck!
-The Donald Duck Theme Song from Donald Duck cartoons from 1947-1959
Huey, Dewey and Louie may want to have the fire extinguisher handy for Uncle Donald as the sailor-suited duck celebrates his 80th birthday.
According to John Grant’s book “Encyclopedia of Animated Characters from Mickey Mouse to Aladdin,” Donald Duck made his screen debut on June 9, 1934 in Walt Disney’s “Silly Symphony” cartoon “The Wise Little Hen.” His first on screen appearance found Donald clutching his stomach when asked by Clara Cluck to help her plant corn. Rolling his eyes in torment, Donald says: “Who? Me? Oh, no, I’ve got a bellyache.”
Film historian and author Leonard Maltin recounts that Disney cast Clarence Nash as the voice of Donald after hearing Nash on a local radio show delivering an impression of a duck reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Nash provided Donald’s quacks and squawks from 1934 until his death in 1985. Since then Tony Anselmo, who was mentored by Nash, has been the voice actor responsible for Donald’s classic lines of dialogue.
Donald’s debut was very much in a supporting role to Clara Cluck in 1934 but his popularity in “The Wise Little Hen” led the studios to cast him and Mickey Mouse in what Maltin considers the best Disney cartoon short, “The Band Concert.” In the animated short Mickey is conducting a Sunday afternoon concert in a park bandstand only to be interrupted repeatedly by Donald Duck who is trying to sell ice cream to the concert goers. The public and Disney studio officials alike witnessed the making of a future animated star and Donald was quickly cast for a larger role in “Orphan’s Benefit,” seen by many as Donald’s big break.
As Mickey Mouse stages a vaudeville show for an opera house full of orphans, Donald takes to the stage and delivers his celebrated rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” But every time he tries to deliver his monologue, the mischievous orphans heckle Donald pushing him into a fit of anger.
His fiery temper would quickly become a signature personality trait along with his humorous voice and mannerisms. The white-colored duck with yellow-orange bill, legs and webbed-feet is also known for his close relationship and rivalry with Mickey Mouse. Despite his short temper, Donald usually maintains a positive outlook on life.
As his popularity grew, Disney introduced Donna Duck a.ka. Daisy Duck as Donald’s love interest in 1937 and introduced his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie in 1938. By that time polls showed that Donald was more popular than Mickey Mouse and Donald was cast in a number of cartoon shorts and was later utilized in a series of World War II propaganda films, most notably “Der Fuehrer’s Face” with Donald taking home the Oscar in 1942 for Animated Short Film.
That same year “Donald Gets Drafted” was released in which audiences learned the animated character’s full name was Donald Fauntleroy Duck as it appeared on his Selective Service Draft Card. Donald would also have roles in two feature-length animation projects. The first was “Saludos Amigos” which consisted of four short segments, two of them starring Donald Duck. In the first segment he meets his parrot pal Jose Carioca. In the second feature, “The Three Caballeros” Donald meets his rooster friend Panchito.
Mr. Duck would go on to star in a number of educational films like “Donald in Mathmagic Land” and “How to Have an Accident at Work.” He also had cameo roles in a number of other Disney movies and television projects. In 1983 Donald played the role of Nephew Fred in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” the classic retelling of the Charles Dickens tale “A Christmas Carol.” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “The Prince and the Pauper” as well as the animated television series “Duck Tales” and “Quack Pack” are listed among Donald’s most memorable projects.
Donald made a big screen comeback in “Fantasia 2000” in the “Noah’s Ark” segment of the film where he plays first mate to Noah. Today he can be seen on television on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” as well as “House of Mouse” and in a new series of animated shorts for Disney Channel.
The character today is as popular as ever appearing in Disney theme parks around the world and on merchandise like watches, shirts, ceramic figures, orange juice cartons and who can’t resist picking up a plush Donald Duck at the Disney Store.
Donald has appeared in more films than any other Disney character, featured in more than 178 theatrical films compared to Mickey’s 137 movies and is the fifth most published comic book character in the world after Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Wolverine.
He has attained worldwide popularity and is known by different names in different countries. For example in Italy he is called “Paperino”, in Finland “Aku Ankka”, in Denmark “Anders And” and in Saudi Arabia “Batut”.
So here’s a big 80th Happy Birthday wish to “no one but Donald Duck!”